The holiday season is a time to celebrate with family and friends, but those celebrations tend to revolve around one thing: lots and lots of food.
The good news is that the National Institutes of Health reports that most of us gain only about a pound during the holiday season. The bad news? Holiday pounds tend to stick, and, before you know it, you’ve got a weight problem. Extra weight raises your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
1. Be realistic — don’t try to lose weight during the holidays. Instead, strive to maintain your current weight.
2. Don’t skip meals. Hunger leads to poor food choices and overeating.
3. Prepare your favorite low-fat, low-calorie dishes to balance your more indulgent meals.
4. Make exercise a priority. It not only prevents weight gain, but also helps relieve holiday stress.
5. Walking is a great exercise everybody can do almost anytime or anywhere:
- Aim for two short walks — about 10 to 15 minutes each — every day
- Get your family moving with a walk around the neighborhood after a holiday feast
- Incorporate walking into your holiday shopping
- Sign up for a holiday road race
6. Celebrate sensibly:
- Before filling your plate, survey party buffets and choose only your favorites
- Drink alcohol in moderation; too much lowers inhibitions and promotes overeating
- Be wary of non-alcoholic drinks, too; they’re often full of sugar and calories
- Bring your own healthy dish to a holiday gathering
Enjoy the holidays, plan time for activity, incorporate healthy recipes into your daily meals, and don’t deny yourself a few favorite seasonal treats. You’ll keep the weight off and start the new year guilt-free!
To register for a Fitness and Healthy Lifestyle class, go to www.virginiahospitalcenter.com/healthy or call the Health Promotion Department at 703-558-6740.
The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
The holidays are here, which means some of us will be buying and decorating a Christmas tree in the next few weeks. With its lights, tinsel and ornaments, the tree is a beautiful sight, but it’s also a potential safety hazard. Fire departments across the country respond to more than 200 tree-related fires annually. The Arlington County Fire Department recommends these tips for keeping you and your loved ones safe this holiday season:
- Buy a fresh-cut tree. How can you tell? Bend the needles. If they bounce back, chances are the tree is fresh. Another freshness clue: sap in the trunk.
- Give it a fresh cut. Ask the vendor to cut off about two inches from the bottom of the trunk, or do it yourself when you get the tree home.
- Buy a sturdy tree stand. It should be deep enough to hold at least three inches of water and strong enough to withstand children and pets.
- Buy quality lights. Choose flame-resistant, energy-efficient lights approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Before stringing the lights, make sure the cords are not damaged or frayed.
- Keep it cool. Place the tree away from sources of heat, including the fireplace, heat vents, radiators and any large appliances that give off heat, such as a big-screen TV. Never use candles near a Christmas tree.
- Don’t overload the extension cord. Attach a maximum of three strings of lights to each extension cord. Never run the cords under a rug or carpet.
- Turn off the lights. Unplug tree lights before you go to bed and when you leave the house. Never leave lights on when you are away on vacation.
- Water regularly. Check the water level in the tree stand at least once a day and fill as necessary.
Artificial trees pose hazards as well. If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is flame-resistant. If the tree has built-in lights, be sure they are approved by a nationally recognized testing lab.
Whether your tree is fresh or artificial, keep a fire extinguisher handy. Make sure every adult in the family knows how to use it. In addition, install and maintain one smoke alarm on each floor and in each bedroom. Test all devices monthly.
Do you have a fire escape plan? Your plan should include two ways out of every room, getting low, closing the door behind you, going directly to your predetermined family meeting place, and then calling 9-1-1. Be sure everyone in your household understands the plan. Practice it together at least twice a year.
The Arlington County Fire Department offers free home safety checks to residents of Arlington and the City of Falls Church. Request a home safety check by calling your local fire station.
The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
What is the flu?
Influenza is a serious disease that affects more than three million people in the United States each year. The flu is very contagious and spreads mainly by social contact. Most people recover within a week to 10 days, but complications can occur, including pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections.
The flu can be deadly for certain high-risk patients, including people over 65, pregnant women, young children and anyone with chronic health problems, such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
What are the symptoms?
Flu symptoms typically develop suddenly and may include:
- Fever and chills
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea, especially in children
How is the flu treated?
There are prescription antiviral medications that work best if started at the beginning of your symptoms. Please discuss this with your doctor.
If you have the flu, stay home, get plenty of rest, and drink clear fluids such as water, broth or sports drinks to prevent dehydration. Over-the-counter medications may relieve some of your symptoms but will not make you less contagious.
What can I do to protect myself, and my family, from the flu?
The single best way to protect against the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend it for everyone six months and older. The vaccine is available by shot or by nasal spray.
In addition, you and your family can take everyday precautions to stay healthy. Avoid sick people and wash your hands frequently to reduce the spread of germs. If you have the flu, stay home from work or school.
When is flu season?
Flu season peaks in the United States between December and February. However, the season can begin as early as October and last until May. During this time, flu viruses circulate at higher levels in the population.
When should I have my flu shot?
Ideally, you should have a flu shot soon after the vaccine becomes available in your area. Early immunization is most effective, but as long as flu viruses are circulating in the community, it’s not too late to get vaccinated.
I’m young and healthy, why do I need a flu vaccine?
The flu affects people in different ways and every flu season is different. While it’s true that the virus is most dangerous for people over the age of 65, even young, healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others.
Having a flu shot is not just good for you, it’s good for the community, too. When more people get vaccinated, less flu can spread.
Where can I get the flu vaccine?
- It’s easy to find a great primary care physician who administers the flu vaccine – and offers same-day appointments, in-house lab services and accept new patients. The Virginia Hospital Center Physician Group has primary care practices conveniently located in Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, McLean and Tysons Corner. Visit vhcphysiciangroup.com/primary-care.
- Stop by the Outpatient Pharmacy at Virginia Hospital Center. Our immunizations-certified healthcare professionals can administer flu vaccine for adolescents, adults, and seniors Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. No appointment is necessary. Flu shots are covered by most insurance plans including Medicare Part B. If you don’t have insurance, our flu vaccine is competitively priced.
- Businesses can schedule flu shot clinics at their work site through Virginia Hospital Center’s HealthWorks program. For more information call the Health Promotion Department at 703-558-6740.
The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
You forgot to get a flu shot. Now your headache won’t go away and your body aches are getting worse. Is it the flu? You reach for your smart phone and type in your symptoms. Several web sites suggest a diagnosis and even recommend products to help you feel better. Should you even bother to make a doctor’s appointment?
With so much information at our fingertips, it’s tempting to turn to “Dr. Google” for medical advice. But the web is no substitute for actual, in-person interaction with a trained clinician.
“We see patients every day who check with Dr. Google before seeking help from us,” says Felix Ma, MD, Virginia Hospital Center Urgent Care. “It’s good that people are more engaged in the management of their health. However, there may be symptoms they don’t recognize or underlying causes that affect their overall health. The internet can be a helpful tool to gain initial insights, but it can’t see you, talk to you, or hear all your concerns for a complete picture of your health. At present, a visit to your healthcare provider is essential to determine what really ails you.”
Here are just a few reasons to pick up the phone and make an appointment with your physician or visit the Virginia Hospital Center Urgent Care:
- Complete History and Physical. A look back at your previous health can shed light on current issues. Additionally, you may have multiple concerns, which can make it challenging to focus the encounter without losing important information. The key to an accurate diagnosis lies within the history, which in turn determines the type of physical exam performed, which in turn identifies the problem.
- The Mind-Body Connection. Are you stressed or tired? Why? What other factors should be considered before a diagnosis is made? A trained clinician pays attention to the vital connection between mind and body.
- Individualized Care. Health-related web sites offer a lot of information, but not all of it pertains to you. Every person is unique and what works for one blogger won’t necessarily work for you. Only a properly trained medical professional can evaluate your situation and advise the best course of treatment tailored to your individual health.
- A Thorough Assessment. Checking your blood pressure or listening to your lungs is part of a thorough assessment and adds to your total health picture. There is value to being informed, so share your research, but remember that it takes time, data, expertise and experience to make an accurate diagnosis and recommend a safe remedy.
Virginia Hospital Center Urgent Care
601 S. Carlin Springs Road, Arlington, VA
As the weather cools down and you cozy up inside your home, take a look around and make some quick safety improvements. Did you know that falls affect more people over the age of 65 than heart attacks and strokes combined? One in three older adults falls each year, resulting in serious — and sometimes fatal — injuries. Many of these falls occur in the home.
- Remove small throw rugs with fringed or curled edges; they are a tripping hazard. Replace them with mats that lay flat and grip the floor.
- Ensure that main walking areas are free of obstacles.
- Make sure all areas of your home are well lit. Install night lights in each bathroom and put a light in each bedroom that you can turn on and off without getting out of bed.
- Install grab bars next to your tub, shower and toilet.
Exercise is the number one fall-prevention intervention seniors can take for their health. Recent findings show exercise can reduce fall risk by almost 50%. For best results, combine exercises that increase strength, improve gait, develop balance and build endurance.
Other things you can do to prevent falls include:
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review all your medications (or the medications of a family member) to see if any of them cause sleepiness or dizziness. If so, discuss the situation with your doctor.
- Be sure to have an eye exam every year. Poor vision can increase the risk of falling.
- Wear shoes inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers.
- When getting up from a bed or chair, do so slowly to prevent dizziness.
Learn more strategies to reduce fall risk at Virginia Hospital Center’s Fall Prevention lecture. The event will be held on Friday, December 4, from 11 a.m. to noon at the Carlin Springs Campus, 601 S Carlin Springs Road in Arlington. Admission is free and so is the parking. To RSVP, call 703-558-6859.
For more classes and events, click here.
Raise your hand if this has happened to you: You walk into a room and can’t remember what you came for. You meet your spouse’s boss and immediately forget her name. Or this oldie but goodie: You can’t recall where you put your keys. Simple forgetfulness or something worse?
“Memory loss is a common part of aging, but there’s a difference between normal, age-related memory loss and changes in memory associated with conditions such as dementia, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease,” explains Lena Wang, Senior Health services at Virginia Hospital Center. “It’s important to understand how these conditions differ and recognize the symptoms so you can get help — for yourself or a loved one.”
Getting older involves a degree of memory loss, which may also include a small decline in thinking skills. But this natural process does not prevent you from living a full and productive life. You can still work. You can still live independently. And you can still remember most things clearly.
Mild cognitive impairment involves problems with memory, language, thinking and judgement that extend beyond normal age-related changes. You and your family and friends may notice these changes, but they don’t prevent you from carrying out routine activities of daily living.
Dementia is an umbrella term for symptoms that include impairment in memory, reasoning, language and complex motor skills. Dementia involves damage to nerve cells in the brain, and may affect people differently, depending on the area of the brain involved. Dementia has many causes, including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, infections, immune disorders and other conditions.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells and the cells’ connections with neurons. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. Initial symptoms include forgetfulness or mild confusion. Over time, memory problems worsen, especially the ability to recall recent events. Symptoms and disease progression vary from person to person.
November 1-7 is National Memory Screening Week. Sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, it promotes early detection and treatment of memory problems and Alzheimer’s disease. Virginia Hospital Center and Care Options will sponsor a free, confidential Memory Screening on Thursday, November 12, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Langston-Brown Senior Center, 2121 N. Culpepper Street in Arlington. This fast and easy assessment takes less than 10 minutes and is administered by a qualified healthcare professional. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 703-237-9048.
To find out more about Virginia Hospital Center’s excellent programs and classes on Senior Health, click here.
When was the last time you checked your smoke alarms? Properly installed, working smoke alarms provide the early warning you need to safely escape from a fire.
“A fire can double in size every 30 seconds, so every second of warning you have from an alarm matters,” says Lt. Sarah-Maria Marchegiani, public information officer for the Arlington County Fire Department.
You should have a smoke alarm on every floor of your home, and one in every bedroom. The department recommends testing the alarms each month by pressing the “test” button. If the alarm doesn’t sound, replace the batteries. Change the batteries in all your smoke alarms twice a year when you change your clocks, unless your alarms are equipped with a 10-year lithium battery.
The Arlington County Fire Department will gladly inspect and install your smoke alarms in County residences at no cost. Operation Firesafe provides free smoke alarms to Arlington families in need. Renters should first contact their landlords; the fire code states that landlords are responsible for installing smoke alarms in rental properties.
Just as important as smoke alarms is a home fire escape plan. Your plan should include two ways out of every room, getting low, closing the door behind you, going directly to your predetermined family meeting place, and then calling 911. Be sure the entire family understands the plan. Practice it together at least twice a year.
You should also check your carbon monoxide (CO) alarms. CO is known as the “silent killer” because it is odorless, colorless and tasteless. The Fire Department has responded to 911 calls for residents who say they feel sick and don’t realize it is CO poisoning. High levels of CO can lead to unconsciousness or even death. An inexpensive way to protect your family is to install and maintain both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.
The Arlington County Fire Department offers free home safety checks to residents of Arlington and the City of Falls Church.
You smoke and you want to quit. Are electronic cigarettes the answer?
Known as e-cigarettes, these battery-operated devices are designed to mimic traditional cigarettes. They produce a vapor that looks and feels like tobacco smoke but with fewer toxic chemicals. More than 250 different e-cigarette brands are currently on the market and manufacturers claim they are a safe alternative to conventional cigarettes.
But many health experts, as well as the Food and Drug administration (FDA), disagree. An FDA analysis of several popular e-cigarette brands found variable amounts of nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and may also prime the brain to become addicted to other substances. As a result, the FDA has issued a warning about potential health risks associated with e-cigarettes.
Beyond that, little data exists about the safety of these products. They have been on the market only a short time, and researchers are still working to compare their health effects to conventional cigarettes. Among alternative tobacco products, e-cigarettes are the least regulated. They have no warning labels and can be sold to people of any age.
Play it smart. Say no to all cigarettes. If you want to quit smoking, there are many FDA-approved treatments that have been proven effective. If you need help to quit, Virginia Hospital Center is presenting a Smoking Cessation Workshop on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. For more information or to register, visit www.virginiahospitalcenter.com/quit.
If you think joint replacement is only for the very old, think again. More and more people in their 40s and 50s are taking the plunge, unwilling to live with debilitating pain or give up the activities they love. The percentage of younger patients having hip or knee replacements has nearly doubled in the last decade.
Years ago, replacement surgery was reserved for elderly patients due to a high complication rate and lack of implant durability. But now, modern techniques allow orthopedic surgeons to evaluate each patient individually and base surgical decisions on pain and disability, not necessarily chronological age.
Likewise, the notion that prosthetic implants will wear out quickly is a myth. Thanks to improvements in materials and design, the vast majority of hip and knee implants will last 20 years or more. Current materials might prove to last even longer.
“When it comes to modern joint replacement, people of all ages have more options,” says David Romness, MD, a total joint specialist and Chief of Orthopedics at Virginia Hospital Center. “In the not-so-distant past, younger patients with advanced arthritis were told to live with the pain, cut back on activities and wait until later to have joint replacement. But today’s patients refuse to be sedentary or compromise their quality of life.”
Minimally invasive approaches, improved implant design, and refined surgical techniques have dramatically reduced recovery time. For these patients, the typical recovery period is now weeks rather than months. Most patients are up and walking immediately following surgery and regain range of motion, strength and flexibility after several weeks of physical therapy. Hospital stays have been reduced to one or two days and the vast majority of patients go directly home without having to use a rehabilitation center.
How do you decide if joint replacement is right for you? When pain and disability prevent you from living the life you want, and non-operative measures such as physical therapy, medications and cortisone injections have failed, surgery may be recommended. Learn more at Virginia Hospital Center’s free joint replacement event this fall. Dr. Romness and his colleagues will discuss every aspect of hip and knee replacement, including the latest surgical techniques, implant materials and recovery time. Joint replacement patients will share their success stories. The event will be held on Saturday, November 14, in the Hospital’s John T. Hazel Conference Center, 1701 North George Mason Drive, Arlington. Admission is free, but registration is required. Register today at www.virginiahospitalcenter.com/events.
Before you launch your next DIY home improvement project, consider this: each year, thousands of people end up in the hospital emergency department or urgent care offices from accidents that occur while performing renovations or other tasks. Safety belongs at the top of everybody’s home improvement checklist. Put down that nail gun and review the following safety tips before you DIY.
Set up a Work Zone
Be aware of your surroundings, especially when working with others. Set up a defined work area and keep young children and pets out of it.
Dress for Success
Wear practical clothes and avoid free-flowing styles (or jewelry) that could get caught in equipment. Protect your eyes from flying debris with goggles and wear earplugs to protect your hearing when working with loud power tools. Use appropriate gloves and footwear to prevent splinters, puncture wounds, cuts, abrasions, bruises, burns and falls. Protect your joints by using knee and elbow pads.
Protect your back by employing proper lifting techniques.
Pamper Your Power Tools
Never leave a power tool unattended when in use. If you take a break, unplug tools and keep them out of reach of your kids. Never carry tools by their cords or yank a cord out of an electrical socket. Take good care of tools when not in use. Keep all electrical cords safely away from sharp edges, oil and heat.
Saw-related eye injuries are one of the most common DIY accidents. Wear safety goggles and make sure you know how to use all the safety switches and guards before turning on the saw.
Falls from a ladder commonly cause injury. Prior to using a ladder, read the instructions and warning labels. They will help you pick the right ladder for the job. Be sure the ladder is on flat, dry ground. Never step on the top rungs; the weight distribution is too unstable and you are very likely to fall. Watch out for wires and other electrical sources nearby.
Felix Ma, MD, who sees his share of DIY disasters at Virginia Hospital Center Urgent Care, says safety is basically just common sense. “If you’re going to climb a ladder or lift something heavy, ask a friend for help.”
And keep a first aid kit handy. You’ll be ready to treat any scrapes, scratches or bumps during your renovation project. “Make sure you can reach it. And make sure it’s stocked,” Dr. Ma says. “Enjoy skillfully cutting corners on pieces of wood for your next DIY project, but avoid cutting corners when it comes to safety measures. Stay alert and stay safe!” he says.
Men! Did you know that more than half of you fail to get a physical each year? Or that women are three times more likely to see a doctor for preventive care? In a recent national survey, men said they were too busy to go to the doctor and many said they didn’t believe they were prone to conditions such as heart disease or cancer.
Research shows otherwise. Men have a higher lifetime risk of cancer than women, and higher mortality rates for the top ten leading causes of death. In addition, men’s life expectancy now lags behind women’s by approximately six years.
It’s time to man up and take control of your health. After all, the longer you put off seeing a doctor, the more likely you’ll have to see a doctor on a regular basis. Here are some simple preventive measures you can take:
- If you’re 18 or older, have your blood pressure checked annually. Undiagnosed hypertension can lead to a host of problems, including kidney failure, heart attack and stroke. “High blood pressure is a preventable and treatable risk factor for many serious conditions, but as many as one in four adults don’t know they have it,” says James Reed, MD. “A yearly blood pressure check will alert you to problems before they escalate.”
- Jeremy Bock, MD, FACC adds, “While it is uncommon for men to develop severe heart disease in their twenties and thirties, changes that lead to heart disease later in life often begin at this age. Therefore, risk factor identification and prevention of cardiovascular disease should begin in early adulthood. This can limit problems in middle aged and older adults.” Young men in their twenties should have a cholesterol test at least once every five years. If your numbers are high, your doctor may recommend treatment and more frequent monitoring.
- The average age for a first heart attack in men is 65. However, as many as 10 percent of all heart attacks occur in men before the age of 45, especially if numerous risk factors are present. Never ignore unusual or unpleasant symptoms.
- “Do not put off your colonoscopy,” stresses Shafik Sidani, MD. “An average-risk individual should have a screening colonoscopy at the age of 50. Screening implies that we are looking for a potentially treatable condition (colorectal cancer) that frequently exists without any symptoms. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or are experiencing inexplicable rectal bleeding or change in bowel habits, you may need a colonoscopy earlier as the incidence of colorectal cancer is rising in younger individuals.”
You can learn more about these and other conditions at Virginia Hospital Center’s free, men-only health event in October. Physician experts will be on hand to discuss some of the biggest health risks for men and what you can do about them. The event is free, but registration is required. Visit www.virginiahospitalcenter.com/events to register today.